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Town council called 'undemocratic' for locking its doors at meetings

PUBLISHED: 14:45 05 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:23 05 August 2019

Thetford town council meeting locked it doors at King's house. Photo: Conor Matchett

Thetford town council meeting locked it doors at King's house. Photo: Conor Matchett

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A town council has been called "undemocratic" for meeting behind locked doors.

Breckland Councillor for Thetford Priory Susan Dowling. Photo: Breckland CouncilBreckland Councillor for Thetford Priory Susan Dowling. Photo: Breckland Council

Thetford holds its full town council meeting on the last week of every month at the King's House, in King Street.

But when members of the public and Breckland councillor, for Thetford Priory, Susan Dowling arrived just minutes after the beginning of the latest meeting on July 31, the doors were locked.

Attempts were made to contact those in the meeting to open the door but these failed.

Thetford's town clerk, Tina Cunnell, said the doors were locked for safety of the staff in the building whilst the meeting was being held upstairs.

Thetford town counillor Mike Brindle. Photo: The Charles Burrell CentreThetford town counillor Mike Brindle. Photo: The Charles Burrell Centre

But Ms Dowling, who was locked out of the meeting, said: "I can understand they don't want to leave the whole building open so random people don't come in, but if that happens again I will reiterate that it could cause problems.

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"They shouldn't lock it, it's not very democratic."

Following her exclusion from the meeting, Ms Dowling has taken up this issue with Breckland councillor, for Thetford Priory, Mike Brindle, who has pledged it will not happen again.

"A member of the public and a councillor had been locked out of the full town council meeting and this is unsatisfactory," Mr Brindle said.

"There have been problems in the past with people entering the building in the evening because it's unlocked. But nobody should be locked out of the meeting and we have to find a different system."

The town council have proposed that a phone number should be available on the door for those who wish to attend the meeting, the door could be locked at a later time or someone is on duty to let people in.

Mr Brindle added: "As a councillor all I need to do is to make sure the problem doesn't happen again but it's up to the officers to think of the safest way of doing it.

"It's just a routine thing and if someone has found a fault in the system we are sorry."

The next full town council meeting is due to be held September 24, when the council says a system will be put in place that means no-one is excluded from the meeting.

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